Speedway Digest Staff
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Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch was made available to media prior to the Texas Motor Speedway race this Saturday:
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important is it for you to win the All-Star race from a financial standpoint? With all of Brexton’s racing, we’re worried about your finances.
“Are you insinuating I’m broke? You should be considering the best thing I got going right now for next year is a test driver. Sim driver. I did hear though that that pays over 100 grand so I'm excited about that. Truth be told, yeah, coming in Texas, All-Star race, I mean, you it's kind of that old adage of bring home the steering wheel or bring home the checkered flag right, so hoping we can bring home the checkered flag that would certainly be nice. I've only done that once in the All-Star race but you know, looking forward to this year's format and the different things that it has going for us this weekend and obviously bringing back some pit crew element into that excited about showcasing my guys and how fast they've been this year. So they deserve to get some love.”
How is your momentum going into the 600 with the good runs on mile-and-a-half tracks?
“I mean, the mile and a half stuff has kind of been our bread and butter a little bit this year, I guess you'd say. You know, California we were okay. I thought we were quick, but we got behind early, but then Vegas and Kansas was really good. We were fast there. So being another mile and a half here, hopefully that means well.”
How has it been being a ‘girl dad’ for a week or so now?
“It’s good. Last night was a little rough, didn't get much sleep last night, but she's been great otherwise. So it’s been a lot of fun. Brexton has been pitching in and helping out and stuff like that. So it's been nice to just be home the last couple of weeks. Haven't had a whole lot to do, which it was planned that way. But Charlotte week next week is going to be a disaster. So lots of help needed next week.”
Is running in the Indy 500 still on your radar?
“Yeah, I mean, you know, it's certainly on my radar. The year that I had it sold and committed and sponsorship was there and everything like that, I got told no. And then I haven't necessarily tried to sell sponsorship since, but there was an easy verbal yes, commitment. And things have changed obviously, so don't have that these days, but overall, excited to be able to watch and cheering for old pal, Jimmie Johnson to go out there and run well and do good. He's always been fast in stock cars and everything else so it's no surprise to see him being up on the charts this time around. And looking forward to seeing him go next Sunday.”
What are you expecting at Texas with this new race car?
“I don't know, there was a test here earlier this year, a tire test and such. I think (Ryan) Blaney was here and he was really fast. Unfortunately, our Toyota bunch, we crashed out early so we didn't get a whole lot of data. So we may be a little behind the eight ball, but the past mile and a half this year would argue otherwise. So we'd like to think we come out here and we're fast and we have good strong race cars to go out here and try to win a million bucks.”
Did your Truck Series drivers tell you anything about the resin on the race track?
“I mean, to me, just watching the truck race, it looked to be about normal. You know, you can get in it, dabble in it a little longer the outside way around, but it does seem to have grip and you can make some runs off the top the corners and try to make some moves down the straightaway in such. Same old Texas it looked to me so not much different.”
23XI Racing driver Kurt Busch was made available to media prior to the Texas Motor Speedway race Saturday:
KURT BUSCH, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
What has the week been like coming off your win in Kansas?
“What a great win for our team and 23XI. All the men and women who have jumped on board to build the 45 car up and to just see the progress and to be part of it from just one little race for a top-10 finish, to leading some laps, couple of top fives and then just a rough stretch of wrong place at the wrong time as far as wrecks and building the cars back up and piecing together everything to make sure we stayed on schedule. And then Denny (Hamlin) as an owner -- great, great owner with his tenacity and the upgrades that Toyota said they were bringing and as a driver you always hear about upgrades. Okay, sure. But the way we unloaded at Darlington and had the raw speed there and then to back it up at Kansas and to pull our car into victory lane with the Jordan Brand. Wow, what a day for Toyota, Jordan Brand, Monster Energy and just all the men and women on our team. All the progress has now put us in that spot where we're solidified as a good team. And I told everybody at our team meeting and our team celebration that we need to become a great team. So those are the next steps.”
How hard is it to go from a good team to a great team in the Cup Series and what do you need to do to get to that point?
“With the Next Gen car, that's even put in a different twist, where we're a new team and the new car is like a clean slate. And it's a blank white marker board where you're just trying to draw patterns and find things and throughout all of the data from Toyota and TRD. The information shared from JGR for me and Billy Scott (crew chief) on that 45 car, we were the last ones as far as all the different apps and systems that they use. So we were going to school, we were a group of freshmen and everybody else were seniors with the amount of knowledge that everybody had within the JGR and Toyota system. So we had to go to work and had to find those rhythms, but also work within the new impound sequences. The rules with NASCAR, you show up, this is what you have. And then it's like, okay, well, how do we get better and unload better and have a better 20 minutes of practice. Because I'm used to hours of practice, and hours of debrief sessions. And now things happen so quick. And with me and Billy, really, we have a good simulator and we have to find certain sequences in the sim, which it's still not as real as you want it to. But it's a tool to use. And that's been the most gratifying part is just trying to uncover everything and look through it, filter through it. And then these last couple of weeks, things have slowed down, and we're making good decisions and the pit crew they're holding serve. So those are things that we have to continue to build on. And make sure we're at that top notch level.
What is it like having momentum coming into the All-Star race?
“A rush, the hauler right now with all their crew members being here and the pit crew guys I mean, it was a straight up like a football locker room or a college football locker room of just the morale, the trash talk, the fun and the excitement like there's a different swagger. You have to have that after a win. And then you have to compartmentalize it into what can we do on track today with the cool procedures for the All-Star and then we go for the million bucks. I mean, who doesn't love money? And we don't have to worry about points tomorrow. And everybody's just bouncing around like, let's go after this.”
Does this car continue to need more work for a 600-mile race?
“This car continues in my mind to exceed expectations other than there's two quick things, like the bodies seem indestructible and the suspension seems very fragile. And so as drivers and teams we've communicated those patterns to NASCAR. And so I go into a an All-Star race where you don’t have to worry about it. But in the back of my mind, to your question, the 600 you have to protect a car and not get a fender rub or get in the fence and tweak the suspension because that just makes for a crazy long day. That's what I had at Dover a few weeks ago after contact with (AJ) Allmendinger. I had to nurse it around for 150 miles and these cars once they're bent it's a whole different ballgame.”
Is this race car truly producing a more level playing field among young drivers and veteran drivers?
“It is feeling that way where you have to have a young role with it attitude and keep things fluid so a few weeks ago, I remember Bubba (Wallace) called me after the sim, and he's like, ‘Hey, we did this, this and this, go try it.’ And I was like, I hadn’t thought of it like that. And it worked. All three of those things were we're going to do this next week at track. And it's like sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. I won't say the final word on that. But just keep it simple and roll with it. And the upgrades that Toyota and TRD have helped us with and again, just the constant communication and knowing that this manufacturer might have been better at this group of tracks or this manufacturer might have been better over there. Coach Gibbs is a leader and he's a champion and sport all the way through. Denny (Hamlin), MJ (Michael Jordan), there's a large championship pedigree within our system, and everybody has rolled their sleeves up and they continue to push and right now there's three Toyota's in our six that are in the Playoffs. We’ve got to keep going.”
Is how you celebrate and enjoy a win different as you get older or deeper into your career?
“Age and experience and also the realization that this is a difficult sport. You're more appreciative as you get older and to build a team up like this on the 45, yes, this one is special. And then the last one I won at Ganassi was super special like you never know when that last one will be the last one. And early on in my career, like you said, there was multiple race wins each year and the trophies rolling in and you're young, you're naive and you're not as appreciative and that's the key word is being appreciative for the things that are going on.”
What do you think of the All-Star format and the strategy behind it?
“Yeah, the format that always gets thrown at us for the All-Star is fun, you know, like SMI (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) and the way that they've operated it over the years you don't know what you're gonna get. And when you see it, you have to absorb it and just figure out what the best way is to approach it. Right now it's an oval mentality of qualifying and if you make the top eight, then you're going drag racing for a little bit. And that was a fun discussion that the driver counsel had with SMI. And just, again, the excitement and the value of the All-Star atmosphere. That's what we tried to keep as far as the integrity of it, and then we're 25 laps there 50 laps they're still the pit crew can get you into the final stage and the top four. It keeps it all balanced with short run speed, long run speed, strategy, pit crew, a whole thing.”
What is a memory that sticks out to you from your first race win or first race?
“I'll go with a lesson I learned early on about my third race. With my dad, my mom and I was racing at the local track. I wrecked in a three wide attempt. I was trying to pass them all in one corner because I had won the week before. And it was this ego check moment of my dad said Where were you going? I was like well I was gonna pass them all on one lap. He goes well now you get to work on your car and fix it all by yourself this week. Probably should learn how not to wreck the car. And so that was a moment of the work ethic as a blue collar kid and what my dad was teaching me about racing. And once the car got pieced back together, and I had been winning races, he's like I just need you to go and finish seventh. It doesn't make any sense why we're here to win. He goes seventh place that pays $35. It's $20 to get the car and $15 for your pit pass. We are going to break even today. I was so worried about even just driving the car. I had to finish an eighth, paid 30 bucks. I told my dad, we’re like $5 in the hole now right? He said, something like that. It's about protecting the race car and being smart with it and putting yourself in position to win. And you can't win the race like they say on the first lap but you can definitely lose it.”
What advice are you giving your nephew, Brexton, on his racing?
“He's just turned seven. So we were gonna slow the roll on finances and how to race. There was a video I took of one of his restarts and I go, ‘Why aren't you block into the outside?’ Looks at me and says, ‘Fine, I’ll do it.’ And the next restart he blocks so far to the outside that the guy on the inside passed him and he got mad at me about it. So there's things with seven year olds that are different than others and just the growth over the last two years for Brexton, yes, he's gonna win a lot of races. And Kyle (Busch) has been a tremendous dad and a coach and a car owner for him and Samantha has been there all along, every step of the way as well. And then on the side, I made a deal with Brexton. I said every when you get for your whole life, I'm gonna give you $100. And so he has to call me or text me after each of the wins. And even like had the number he goes I think I'm up to 14 now is our account right? So it's gone from $30 to $1400, I mean inflation is kind of catching up. He's on his own program. We got it we got to keep straight with him. He doesn't care about anybody else. And but it's all going into an account and it'll tally up over the years.”
ROSS, LAST YEAR YOU RACED YOUR WAY INTO THE ALL-STAR RACE THROUGH THE ALL-STAR OPEN. THIS YEAR, YOU ARE LOCKED IN WITH TWO WINS ALREADY THIS SEASON. HOW’S THAT FEEL?
“It feels great. It’s a lot of FOMO when you are not in it, so you just feel like you’re in the Cup Series you need to be in it with teams like I drive for. Yeah, last year was a lot of pressure and I thought it would be easier, but it’s been no different. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, and we put a lot of pressure on us as a team to keep performing the way we’ve been this year.”
THE QUESTION PROBABLY EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW, HOW ARE YOU FEELING AND TELL US ABOUT YESTERDAY AFTER THE TRUCK RACE?
“I feel good. Odd deal. Looking back and trying to figure out what went wrong and why that happened with our AMR staff and our medical staff that travels with us. They know me, they see me every week. Even whenever I don’t see them, they are walking through the garage and watching us. They see us after crashes when we go to the care center, so as soon as we walked in Kevin’s like yeah man you are dehydrated. We were talking and then last night I got to thinking about my week and I think I just got lazy. I just didn’t hydrate enough. I was fine in the truck; I mean it was hot. It was a hot race, and I went to get out and I went to step out of the truck on the floorboard and my left calf locked up, like it cramped, and then my left hamstring and then my hips both did when I was on the door of the truck. There was somebody from the medical team was there right then and nobody else was even around me. He asked if I was ok, and I told him no. He helped get me out of the truck, like I was already sitting on the door. He got me out and I laid down and felt ok. Then I got up and was like alright I probably need to go on in there if it’s going to cramp that bad. I’ve never had cramping like that and when that amount of pain comes in it creates lightheadedness and all of that. It’s not fun, so I’m not going to let it happen again. With the IV’s last night and what they recommended for water intake today, will probably get some more before the race tomorrow. I’m just staying in contact with the medical team to let them kind of guide me on what they recommend.”
“I do. I swear I said it last night, I don’t know what’s in those bags, but it makes you feel like a superhero. It’s awesome. It’s all kinds of vitamins and minerals and potassium and everything that we need that I should have been taking in naturally and more just natural throughout the week that I got lazy on. It’s straight into you and halfway through the first bag I was like I’m ready. Like I’m ready to go. I’ve had probably four of five times throughout my career went and gotten IV’s and it’s worth it to go ahead and stay and get the second bag. Really try to prepare now for two more days on track. I want to be at 100 percent. I feel good though.”
THE ALL-STAR RACE IS ONE OF THOSE EVENTS WHERE IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU DON’T WIN, BUT THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS IS IF YOU WIN. IT’S A MILLION BUCKS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR TRACKHOUSE IF YOU WERE TO PULL THIS OFF FOR THE WHOLE ORGANIZATION AND FOR YOU?
“I mean, it’s money. Just call it what it is, right! That’s the whole reward of it. Winning in the Cup Series is just, that is what it is. Being competitive and competing is really my motivation. I want to come to the track every week and compete. That’s my whole life goal right now is just competing. If we aren’t doing that then that’s what we are going to work towards and that’s what we are going to try to win the day. So, whatever that is today’s practice and qualifying. We were just kind of going through it before I walked over here, lie there’s the lights and there’s a buzzer and is there like a laser system or is it just by the eye test if you jump early. Trying to understand all of that is cool. I’ve always watched All-Star qualifying; I mean used to they came off of Turn 4 at a hundred something miles an hour and tried to slowdown and do a pit stop. We’re not doing that, but it’s still this is a bucket list item that I’m getting just to qualify for. Go through a qualifying event where it’s not normal, right? We are going to do one lap and hope we are top eight and then we really get to do the cool stuff, involve our pit crew and go fight for the pole.”
YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A TON OF MOMENTUM. YOU’VE LED IN THE LAST FOUR RACES, UP UNTIL THE SPIN AT DARLINGTON YOU WERE RUNNING UP AT THE FRONT. KIND OF EXPLAIN THAT, LIKE WHAT HAS THIS YEAR BEEN LIKE FOR YOU PERSONALLY AND THEN BEING PART OF SUCH A STRONG TEAM THAT’S PROBABLY BEEN THE BIGGEST STORY THIS YEAR?
“I don’t know if I can explain it because I can’t even believe it sometimes. Everything we are working on is to keep being better, keep being fast and keep competing in the Cup Series like I said. When I lay down or I watch film back from this year, I’m honest when I say I can’t believe that I’m watching the No. 1 and No. 99 compete the way we are. It’s just not supposed to happen this way. I know Justin (Marks) doesn’t like me saying it, but I don’t view myself as a competing, winning Cup Series driver. I prepare to be one. I believe that I’m the best driver. I think that if you don’t think that you shouldn’t be in the Cup Series. Every driver strapping in today for practice should think that they are the best driver. Nobody is better in their car then them. They are the best. I believe that, but man I watch us lead laps, I watch us pick up spots on pit road, control restarts, push on restarts in the front two rows, that is so hard to do. I’ve watched it for 10 years of my career from 2011 until this year really competing. There’s a lot of losing that came along with that. I’m very conditioned to losing. Although I don’t want to sound like I’m complacent with it, I got to a spot in my career several years ago where I just realize what my potential was. Now, Trackhouse, Chevrolet, and Phil Surgen have given me this whole new lease on my career and given me this opportunity to compete. We’ve been preparing for this for years, but to actually go do it is just hard for me to believe, honestly.”
I KNOW HOW CLOSELY THIS ORGANIZATION WORKS TOGETHER, BOTH TEAMS. WITH YOU ALREADY BEING IN, IS THERE A LOT OF FOCUS GOING INTO THE OPEN ON REALLY TRYING TO WORK HARD TO GET DANIEL (SUAREZ) AS WELL RACING HIS WAY IN AND NOT HAVING TO HOPEFULLY DEPEND ON THE FAN VOTE IF NOT? ARE Y’ALL WORKING TOGETHER ON IT, EXCHANGING INFORMATION AND THOSE KINDS OF THINGS TO REALLY TRY TO GET THAT TEAM IN AS WELL?
“Yes, and it’s no different than any other week. The 1 and 99 teams work out of the same hauler on the brain side of it. They work in the same office at Trackhouse headquarters in Concord. I mean, we fly together. We live life together. Especially the crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics and pit crews, that’s a given. The cool part about this event is that the Open cars go first, it’s just like an A and B practice for a normal weekend. So, it’s just like we are split up in A and B. He’s going to practice in A and then we’re going to practice and unfortunately or fortunate for me we will learn from him whenever he practices. We will be able to make adjustments going into our practice right after the Open cars for the All-Star cars. Then, we will give him our feedback as they go into qualifying, and we will give them our feedback for them going into their Open race. It’s no different. It’s pretty incredible how much I’ve learned from Daniel. We’re similar in age and we’re similar in a lot of things, but he’s been in Cup longer than me. He’s been mentored by a lot of people that have been in the sport a long time. I am too, but not at this level. Like I was just talking about, and I catch flack for it, because I just don’t view myself in a lot of ways and he does. He knows that and he knows his potential. I’m trying to learn from him and I’m sure there’s things he is learning from me, I think. It’s wild to look back at our careers and see where the different walks of life we’ve came from and literally the different languages we grew up speaking to now both being teammates here. He’s just an awesome guy and we’ll learn from each other throughout these practices and the Open race and hopefully both go compete in the All-Star race.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO LOOK AT ANY OF YOUR IN-CAR HYDRATION SYSTEMS OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU DO TO KEEP HYDRATED BEYOND WHAT YOU DO BEFORE YOU GET IN THE RACECAR?
“I’m looking at all of that. I think I got lazy thinking it was just a Truck race. I don’t wear a cool shirt over there. I don’t do a lot of things I do in the Cup car, and I don’t think I need to change a whole lot. I think the week leading up, probably eat some more watermelon, probably just eat more watermelon in general. I mean, really, I know we joke about the watermelon but if I would have eaten a little more of it probably wouldn’t have had the problems I had. In the car, there’s not a whole lot Niece (Motorsports) could have done. I think it was on me.”
ONE OF THE COLLATERAL THINGS WHEN YOU GET SUCCESS IS THAT YOUR FAN BASE EXPANDS AND POPULARITY GOES UP. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THIS YEAR AND ARE THERE SOME TANGIBLE THINGS THAT SAYS OK I’VE HIT A CERTAIN LEVEL HERE?
“Yeah, I’m probably scaring some of them off with shirtless pictures from the care center hooked up to an IV. I probably should have thought twice about that, but I’m sitting in there waiting on the second bag to get done and just thought I should tell people I’m ok. They gave me my phone and saw a lot of stuff online of what people thought happened and I just wanted to clear it up. I mean, yeah, the most tangible way to measure it is just the business of our racing. The business side of Trackhouse and Ross Chastain has never been better. For both cars, we are bringing on new partners. You guys hear us talking about it. You guys hear us welcoming new people to the family and to the house. I think that’s the best way, so go down the list of people we are announcing, and we’ve got more coming down the pipeline. It’s checking all the boxes. Then yeah, social media numbers are up. That comes with it’s fair share of negativity and that’s ok. Everybody’s got an opinion and social media gives them that platform to share that. I’ve learned how to deal with that better and there was a time where one bad tweet would just make me delete Twitter off my phone and wait three days and then re-download it. Now it’s like I don’t mind, and I don’t have to block people and mute them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few people muted from year’s past. It’s big business racing. I was up in some suites yesterday with the Worldwide Express folks. This is their first race on my car, and they also sponsored my Truck and Dean Thompson. Just looking out, I don’t get up in the suites a whole lot anymore. Used to I was a fan of the grandstands and I was always up there, but looking out you realize how big of a deal this place is and this track. With the big screen and the billboards and everything being color coordinated across the whole footprint of this racetrack and all the advertising that goes on, let alone on TV. I mean we’ve got sponsors on the foam safer barrier blocks in the wall. That’s big business racing and I’m proud our stuff is growing and going good.”
It was a very good time either to be powered by a Chevrolet engine or drive for Chip Ganassi Racing on the first day of PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Chevrolets propelled the three fastest qualifiers, led by Rinus VeeKay’s four-lap average speed of 233.655 mph in the No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet, while all five of Ganassi’s Honda-powered drivers ended up in the top 12 and will advance to the final two rounds of qualifying Sunday, including the Firestone Fast Six that determines the winner of the NTT P1 Award for pole.
“It’s a good start,” VeeKay said. “It shows we have a good car and confidence for tomorrow. We can definitely challenge for pole. I think Ganassi is definitely our biggest rival out there for challenging for pole.”
Positions 13 through 33 in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” were set during today’s qualifying, which was interrupted twice by rain and lightning for a total of two hours, 14 minutes and cut short by 60 minutes.
The second round of qualifying, for the 12 fastest drivers today, starts at 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The six fastest drivers from that round will advance to the Firestone Fast Six, which starts at 5:10 p.m., and turn another four-lap qualifying run for the NTT P1 Award and its $100,000 prize.
Live coverage of the last two rounds of qualifying starts at 4 p.m. (ET) on NBC, with the INDYCAR Radio Network also providing coverage.
Just under VeeKay on the Scoring Pylon were Arrow McLaren SP teammates Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. O’Ward was second at 233.037 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, followed by Rosenqvist at 232.775 in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou led a trio of Honda-powered Ganassi drivers in the next three spots. Palou ended up fourth at 232.774 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, with 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan fifth at 232.625 in the No. 1 The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Indy 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson was sixth at 232.398 in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“It’s pretty awesome, and I’m just so thankful to be part of the group,” Johnson said about the Ganassi team performance. “Watching them prepare literally since they left here last year and continually thinking of this race, and it being a motto to win here before the championship. To be a part of it, to live it, to now be here experiencing it is really cool.”
Three-time Indy 500 pole sitter Ed Carpenter was seventh with a four-lap average at 232.397 in the No. 33 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet after topping the morning practice with a single lap of 234.410, the fastest trip around the 2.5-mile IMS oval since 1996. Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing was eighth at 232.275 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, with “500” rookie Romain Grosjean leading Andretti Autosport in ninth at 232.201 in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
A trio of Indianapolis 500 winners rounded out the drivers to advance to the Round of 12 qualifying.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2008 “500” winner Scott Dixon was 10th at 232.151 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, followed by 2018 “500” winner and current NTT INDYCAR SERIES points leader Will Power in 11th at 231.842 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato ended up 12th at 231.708 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda. Sato was forced to make a second attempt after his first run of 232.196 was disallowed after INDYCAR officials penalized Sato for qualifying interference and failure to follow instructions, affecting another competitor. While slowing on his cooldown lap after his first attempt, Sato was judged to have impeded the qualifying attempt of the next driver, Marco Andretti.
Rookie David Malukas just missed the cut to advance to Sunday, ending up 13th and just behind Dale Coyne Racing teammate Sato at 231.607 in the No. 18 HMD Honda.
While Chevy powered the first three drivers on the speed chart after qualifying, Honda struck back with a 7-5 edge among the top 12.
There was a common thread between VeeKay, O’Ward and Rosenqvist besides Bowtie engines. All three drew low numbers in the qualifying order Friday night and made their attempts in the first 15 minutes of qualifying, when the track temperature was just 85 degrees.
The air and track temperature continued to climb until the first rain arrived, dropping grip and speeds. By 12:30 p.m., 90 minutes into qualifying, the oval’s asphalt was 107 degrees.
A practice for the 12 remaining qualifiers will take place from 12:30-2 p.m. Sunday, with live coverage on Peacock Premium.
Ryan Truex finished in the sixth position in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway to claim the top-finished GR Supra position. Fellow Joe Gibbs Racing GR Supra drivers Ty Gibbs (12th) and Brandon Jones (14th) finished in the top-15 after sustaining damage in a caution-filled 250-mile event.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Texas Motor Speedway
Race 12 of 33 – 250.5 miles, 167 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Tyler Reddick*
2nd, William Byron*
3rd, Sam Mayer*
4th, Justin Allgaier*
5th, Austin Hill*
6th, RYAN TRUEX
12th, TY GIBBS
14th, BRANDON JONES
19th, JEFFREY EARNHARDT
27th, TIMMY HILL
RYAN TRUEX, No. 18 Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 6th
How was your race today?
“I felt like stage two we really hit our stride and we were really fast. I feel like us and the 7 (Justin Allgaier) were the two strongest cars. I don’t know what happened that last stage, I don’t know if it was the set of tires or what, but we just gave up track position and never got it back. Sixth isn’t bad, but probably should have been top-two. It’s just tough to pass here and dirty air is really hard. The crew did really good. I really needed a green flag run and unfortunately everybody kept wrecking so we never really had those. I’ll take it, solid day.”
TY GIBBS, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 12th
How was your race overall?
“We finished 12th so not bad, but we got wrecked after the caution came out and got wrecked again. We never really got to show what we had it felt like. I felt like we were fast. Just with the traffic here. We made it to 17th really quick, but then everyone was all stretched out and this track is just tough because you’re riding around and hoping for another caution to get back together. Never really got back to where we needed to be or where we should have been. Just a chaotic event and a wreckfest.”
How challenging was it to come from the back of the field at the start of the race?
“It was challenging, but when we got wrecked after that caution came out and wrecked again, just ruins your day. Have to keep going, but I never gave up and my guys never gave up. Came home with a 12th place car and everyone around us looks better than us so that’s a good thing to say.”
BRANDON JONES, No. 19 Menards/Delta Faucets Toyota GR Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 14th
How was your car in the race even with the significant damage to the nose?
“The GR Supra doesn’t look as pretty as it did to start. I hate that we got damage there. I had pretty good track position all day. We got back a little bit early on, but started to make gains in the right direction. All in all, we just missed it a little bit. We will come back here stronger and we know have have another race here in Texas later in the year. This is a key one always to try some stuff for the Playoffs and see if we can’t hit on something, but I think we were definitely better than we were in the past. Still need a little bit of work.”
With the damage, were you surprised you were able to take the lead on the restart?
“I think so. I think clean air here is a really big deal. It would have been interesting if we would have stayed out. I see the 21 finished decent. Just maybe something we tried there to see if it would work for later in the year. I don’t think it did. We’ll rebound and continue to push. We’ve got some good tracks coming up.”
Despite having to restart at the back twice due to getting caught up in others’ messes, Trent Williams came back to finish 13th and roll his #51T back into the trailer after the USAC/CRA main event last Saturday at the Bakersfield Speedway.
The race was the first-ever for the Apple Valley, California racer on the 77-year-old 1/3 mile Kern County clay oval. Despite that, “T-Dub” quickly adapted to the track and stopped the clocks at 13.587. That was the eighth quickest of the 22 cars that showed up on the pleasant spring evening.
After a seventh-place finish in his heat race, Williams was coming off the outside of the fifth row in the 30-lap main event. With an ominous full moon hovering above, near-disaster struck at the end of the first circuit. Chaos erupted just in front of him as he exited turn four. Williams did his best to steer through the mess, but he was nearly “Monster Trucked” from behind by another car trying to avoid the mayhem as well.
Williams’ crew quickly got the car to the work area in the center of the track. They looked it over and deemed it ready for the restart. Unfortunately, due to the tangle, he and the other cars involved had to go to the rear.
Williams quickly worked his way up to 13th, but a restart with 12 laps to go bit him again. Cars tangled going into turn one and once again things were unavoidable and the Williams #52V got caught up in the bedlam. It was the same story as before as the crew checked over the car and sent him back on his way for round three.
Over the last seven laps, Williams worked his way up to 13th once again when the checkers ended the race. While 13th was not where he wanted to end up, the bright side was he finished and rolled the car into the trailer. Thus far in 2022, he has finished every main event that he has started.
One of the highlights of the night was watching the #52T’s crew in action. Comprised of his father Ron, girlfriend Seattle, and his brother Jake, when they were not busy checking Williams’ car after the tangles, they pitched in and helped several other teams change flat tires in the work area during the 30-lap main event.
Trent Williams PR
Making only his second appearance at the Bakersfield Speedway, Eddie Tafoya Jr. avoided the chaos and placed fifth in the USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series main event last Saturday night. It was his third top-five finish in 2022.
For Tafoya, who makes his home in Chino Hills, California, not only was it his second appearance at the track that is billed as “The West’s Fastest 1/3 Mile High Banked Clay Oval,” but it was his first time there since 2019. His result on Saturday bodes well for the series’ next appearance there on Labor Day weekend.
Twenty-two cars showed up for the race on the Kern County clay oval. When qualifying began, it was obvious that it was a “Cowboy Up” track. Tafoya was the first car out to qualify in the “PBR-Looking” session. His first lap saw him bounce around the edge of the cushion in turn four and ended up at 14.411. On the second lap, he lived up to his “Mr. Smooth” nickname. He kept all four tires on the ground and stopped the clocks over a half-second faster at 13.804. That was right in the middle of the field at 11th fastest.
The Bakersfield crew did their magic on the track when time trials were over and it was much smoother throughout the remainder of the night. Tafoya’s first opportunity to test the reworked surface came in the second 10-lap heat race. The pretty #51T started on the inside of row two and ended up placing fifth.
For the 30-lap feature, Tafoya started on the inside of the sixth row in 11th. By the time the race survived one red flag and the first two yellows on lap seven, the #51T was running in fifth. That was a good thing as throughout the race, the yellow flag halted the action several times and all that trouble was behind him. Tafoya stayed in fifth for the duration and earned his second top-five finish in the last three races.
In two races at Bakersfield in his young career, Tafoya’s consistent driving style has yielded fifth and sixth-place finishes.
Last week’s result allowed Tafoya to maintain his fifth-place standing in the USAC/CRA Series. Going into the next race at Perris Auto Speedway on May 28th, he is only 23-points out of fourth. Through the first nine races of the year, his finishing average is 8.88. However, that included a three-race stretch in the middle portion of his schedule that saw him finish outside the top 10 (including one race at Perris when he was clobbered and had a car destroyed). Take away those uncharacteristic outings and his finishing order in the other six races is an impressive 5.66.
Tafoya and the #51T team would like to thank Specialty Fasteners, DRC Chassis, Ryder Racing Engines, Simpson Safety Products, Bell, Benic Enterprises, BR Motorsports, PSC Powder Coating, Magik Graphics, Gasper Transportation, Owen’s Insurance Services, and Weld Wheels for making the 2022 season possible.
Fans can follow Tafoya on Instagram @eddietafoya51. The same contact point can be used to purchase his great-looking shirts via mail.
Eddie Tafoya Jr. 2022 Race Results
1-27 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 7th A Main
1-28 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 9th A Main
1-29 Cocopah Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 2nd A Main
3-26 Perris Auto Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 18th A Main
4-1 Keller Auto Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 13th A Main
4-2 Thunderbowl Raceway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 15th A Main
4-23 Mohave Valley Raceway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 3rd A Main
4-30 Perris Auto Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 8th A Main
5-14 Bakersfield Speedway USAC/CRA Sprint Cars 5th A Main
Eddie Tafoya PR